In the spring of 2015, The Heath founder Mark Yaconelli was invited by The Church in Wales to lead a day-long workshop on community storytelling in the town of Bala. The invitation came because the Church in Wales, was concerned about the decline of “social capital” (the network of relationships that allows a community to address problems and increase a sense of well being). Although the Church in Wales has a religious mission, they felt that The Hearth model (non-religious) could help communities address the increasing loneliness, alienation, and breakdown of social relationships.
In February of 2016, Mark accepted an invitation to do a six-month residency as a “Community Innovator” for the Church in Wales. Central to his role will be to train twenty teams to develop their own local community storytelling projects in North Wales. In an interview with the BBC, Mark highlighted the importance of storytelling within communities: “When we tell stories in community settings we increase understanding, bridge differences, reduce shame, and uncover the values that matter most. The Hearth is simply a new packaging of a set of old medicines. When people gather together to share stories, food, song, and service they discover meaning, purpose, and a sense of belonging. Communities that have a healthy sense of belonging have less addiction, less violence, less loneliness and are more likely to address suffering and promote the common good.”
Mark is holding a number of training events across North Wales. The culmination of the training will be a Hearth event in the town of Llangollen. The theme will be “Strangers in a Strange Land” and will include stories from recent refugees seeking asylum within the United Kingdom. Proceeds from the event will benefit Share, an organization working in North Wales and England to assist homeless and refugees.